The South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) has approved £32.4 million in funding for six Kent projects from the Getting Building Fund (GBF), including a railway station for Thanet and training facilities to bolster the creative sector.
These projects will create and safeguard 1,405 jobs, assist 698 learners, unlock and deliver 246 new homes, and enable 5,383sq m of commercial space.
Projects that support SMEs with new facilities, schemes that create infrastructure to support the development of employment land in Folkestone and Hythe, and the creation of an Incubator R&D facility at Discovery Park are among the six that have received £32.4 million in funding from SELEP for Kent. Across the SELEP patch, 25 GBF projects have been awarded £66.8 million in funding
These projects have been chosen for being shovel-ready and able to help get the local economy recover. As the country deals with its second lockdown and the future of the UK business environment remains uncertain, these projects will help the areas and industries that are particularly affected by the lockdown caused by COVID-19.
Earlier this year, the Government announced the £900 million Getting Building Fund, created to invest in local projects to drive economic growth. SELEP successfully secured the largest value for any LEP area in the UK from the fund, with its £85 million pot across East Sussex, Essex, Kent, Medway, Southend and Thurrock. The money is targeted at areas most affected by the pandemic as well as the sectors that will provide the most support to the economy in the near future by creating jobs, restoring and regenerating town centres and high streets, and attracting local investment.
The projects in Kent which have been awarded funding by the South East LEP comprise:
· Javelin Way Development: the provision of new educational and light industrial facilities, supporting growth of an SME base in Ashford and facilitating building of a new sports complex;
· Romney Marsh Employment Hub: the second stage of a project that provides infrastructure to services and brings forward the remaining five hectares of employment land in Folkestone and Hythe, creating 480 new jobs;
· Thanet Parkway Railway Station: the delivery of a new railway station in East Kent to improve connectivity to these coastal communities;
· Incubator Facility, Discovery Park, Sandwich: the creation of flexible laboratory, write-up and office space for innovative SMEs in Building 500 at Discovery Park;
· New Performing & Production Digital Arts Facility @ North Kent College: the provision of industry-leading training facilities for Performance and Production Arts at the heart of the Thames Estuary Production Corridor; and
· The Meeting Place Swanley: the provision of new business space and homes.
Two GBF projects in Kent and Medway have already secured £4.3 million in funding by SELEP at a previous Board meeting: the roll-out of full fibre broadband to remote and rural parts of Kent and Medway to support businesses needing faster connectivity (£2.29 million), and Britton Farm, a new learning and skills hub in a repurposed shopping mall, supporting adults to retrain, upskill and access employment opportunities in Medway (£1.99 million).
This brings the total value of GBF being invested across eight projects in Kent and Medway – including a currently unallocated £323,204 – to £37 million. The full list of Getting Building Fund projects can be found here. These projects will all contribute to the Government’s Build Back Better initiative to help the recovery of the economy and are set to deliver within 18 months.
Chair of SELEP’s Kent and Medway Economic Partnership federated board, Geoff Miles said:
“These funding decisions will provide new facilities to boost our creative and life sciences sectors, as well as develop much-needed workspace for the county’s SMEs. The new Thanet Parkway Rail Station will bring greater connectivity to communities on Kent’s expansive coast, giving those residents access to further reaching employment and training opportunities. It will also make these areas far more accessible – and therefore attractive and viable places to live – to commuters, in turn encouraging greater inward investment.
“The Romney Marsh Employment Hub will unlock 700 jobs for the area, and the creation of a new R&D Incubator facility at Discovery Park will provide a boost to Kent’s life sciences industry, the value of which has been obviously highlighted during 2020. North Kent College’s new performing arts centre will create an industry-leading hub at the heart of the Thames Gateway for the creative sector – an area that will need the utmost support in the wake of COVID-19.”
South East LEP Chair Christian Brodie added:
“Our partners and local areas have worked hard to get this funding into the local economy, where it’s urgently needed. We are working in line with central government’s Build Back Better initiative and are confident that these projects will deliver jobs, housing and the best support for businesses. Investment in the South East extends to the rest of the country. When we thrive, the UK thrives.”